Sunday, September 15, 2013

Program: Candy Science

Another type of program that we get a lot of requests for is any kind of science program. I decided I wanted to incorporate one during my weekly summer programs. I have been really wanting to make ice cream in a bag for a program, plus I had pinned some science experiments using candy on Pinterest, so I figured I'd make an edible science theme. This was my first program to hit its listed capacity for the summer, and we ran out of supplies quickly. Here's what we did!

Ice cream in a bag: I have fond memories of making ice cream in coffee cans during Girl Scouts as a kid, so when I was introduced to this simpler (and single serve!) method in grad school, I knew I'd be using it in a program someday. To make things run a bit more quickly, I had pre-measured the sugar into the small plastic bags and the rock salt into the large plastic bags. When the kids came to the first table, they grabbed a bag of sugar. Then I measured the vanilla for them and a teen volunteer measured their milk (they could choose from regular, chocolate, or soy). They moved on to table two where another staff member insured their bags were closed tightly and gave them a large bag of rock salt. Finally, another teen volunteer added ice to their large bag. All that was left was the shaking! Unsurprisingly, we had some kids who got lazy with their shaking and didn't get a great ice cream consistency, but the majority of those kids just drank the mixture anyway. The kids absolutely loved doing this - many of them wanted to make seconds. Unfortunately, the ice was the first thing we ran out of - but thankfully, not before everyone had one serving.

Floating S's: this is one of the experiments I pinned. I set up a table with cups and a pitcher of water, plus a bag of Skittles. One of my volunteers staffed this table, explaining the experiment to the kids and making sure they didn't grab handfuls of Skittles. The experiment is really simple: put some water in a small cup and drop a couple Skittles in, S side up. The dye will dissolve off the Skittle and the S will float to the water's surface. In a setting with fewer kids, you could try different temperatures of water to see if that makes the process move faster. I think the kids were surprised to see that all of the ink didn't dissolve.

Acid test: another experiment I found online, this one tests the acid content of sour candies. One again, you need small cups with some water in them. Add a little baking soda to the cup and drop a piece of sour candy in it. The higher the acid content of the candy, the more bubbles you will see. I had a few different kinds of candies for the kids to try and compare, including one that wasn't sour at all. They definitely enjoyed watching the bubbles.

Balloon inflation: to demonstrate the gas released when you mix Pop Rocks and soda, we tried this experiment. Each kid got a small latex balloon and carefully dumped a package of Pop Rocks into it. Keeping the bulb of the balloon to the side, the kids carefully stretched the balloon's opening over the neck of a freshly opened 12 oz. Dr. Pepper. Then the kids moved the balloon bulbs upright, dumping the Pop Rocks into the soda. In a few seconds, the balloon would begin to inflate. I was really surprised by how many kids wanted to keep their sodas (with balloons still inflated on top) to show their parents.

Those were the experiments we tried this time around - the Mentos and cola experiment had been done pretty recently here in another science program, so I didn't want to repeat it yet. The program was pretty fast and furious - we hit capacity, everyone did all the experiments, and then we were done 45 minutes later. The kids definitely loved the program, with the homemade ice cream being their favorite part. I'll be running a monthly science program during the school year, so I can't wait to see what other experiments they'll enjoy. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them in the comments!

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